Business

Partners HealthCare blames winter weather for operating loss

This past winter’s record snowfall has claimed an unlikely victim: Partners HealthCare’s profits.

The state’s largest health system said Friday that it lost $17 million on operations in the first three months of 2015 because the harsh weather made it difficult for people to get to their appointments. It is the worst weather-related loss Partners has ever suffered, said chief financial officer Peter K. Markell.

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“The number of storms and the number of days made a material impact,” Markell said.

The results are a big change from the same three months of 2014, when Partners earned $13 million from its hospitals.

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This year the health system maintained business among patients who needed inpatient hospital stays, but lost money among those who needed outpatient services, such as scheduled doctor visits.

Markell said many of the patients who couldn’t get care during the long winter rescheduled in the spring, but Partners does not expect to make up all the losses. Partners owns 10 hospitals, including Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s, and includes thousands of doctors.

Meanwhile, challenges with Partners’ insurance arm, Neighborhood Health Plan, continue. Neighborhood has struggled with an influx of sick patients, high use of an expensive hepatitis C drug, and low reimbursement rates from the state, losing more than $100 million in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2014.

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Partners already recorded an anticipated $92 million loss for Neighborhood this year. The insurer primarily serves low-income people on Medicaid.

When the insurance losses are included, Partners lost $38 million in the quarter.

“There are a lot of headwinds blowing,” Markell said.

Partners is the highest-cost health system in the state and gave up a bid to acquire South Shore Hospital in Weymouth this year over concerns that the deal would further raise costs.

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at priyanka.mccluskey@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.
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